Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tech Wars - PC Gaming Platforms

Welcome to Tech Wars! Every Tuesday and Thursday we take two or more tech services/products and put them side-by-side to see which one prevails. Follow us on Twitter (@allstuffnerdy) to get updates when a new Tech War comes out. To see more Tech Wars articles, click the "Tech Wars" link at the top of the page.

PC gaming has been evolving at a rapid pace. Many years ago, most people didn't play games on their computer. That's what consoles were for. But now with the turbocharged power of desktop hardware, the majority of gamers prefer PC's for gaming. We can now put multitasking power into the hands of the average consumer. I know people who stream music, video chat, play games, and record their screen all at the same time with minimum lag. So we now have the need to put that multitasking power to use. That's where PC gaming platforms come in.

In the past few years, many game client platforms have come through, but two stand out. Valve's Steam service, and EA's Origin service.

To kick this Tech Wars off, let's put the two side by side and see how they stack up:
Valve's Steam EA's Origin
Membership cost FREE FREE
Created 2002 2005 - Renamed to Origin in 2011
In-game overlay Yes Yes
Social network (friends, disscussion boards...) Yes Yes
online game streaming (Ex: twitch.tv) No Yes
game streaming (Ex: read here) Yes No
Game store Yes Yes
Allow running external games Yes Yes
Fanbase 75 million 9.3 million
Games on store 3,000 Unknown (less than 500)
Cloud support (for saves and game data) Yes Yes
RAM usage 28,000 Kb 159,000 Kb
Flagship games Valve branded games EA branded games

After stacking these up, it's time to see which one dominates. But first, it's worthy mentioning the types of sales that go on in the two game platform stores. EA sells many expensive games (avg $50 USD). It does, however, offer occasional discounts and On the House deals (see here). Valve on the other hand offers a wide range of prices on their products, and often has deep sales (ranging from 25% to 90% off the original price). Now with that out of the way, we can go through it and come to a conclusion. So obviously both are free to use. And Steam is a much more experienced player in this field considering it was created back in 2002 for the purpose of distributing updates for it's then popular game Counter-Strike. Origin is much more recent in the respect that it wasn't a gaming platform until 2011. Before that, it was just a download manager and digital game store. Both have an In-game overlay that you can access by pressing a pre-defined key combination to access. From there both platforms support their own social network (chat, friend activity, forums...). Origin has a surprising feature where it can stream your game online to services like twitch.tv. Valve however allows streaming to other devices on your network in a different way. Basically Valve has made it so you can stream any game that you have set to launch through Steam to any device on your network that is running Steam. The client also supports sending key presses back so essentially you are remote controlling your computer. If you want to read more about this, read here. Both platforms support buying games online from their custom store as well as importing existing games by searching your computer for their executable (.exe). And Steam has the largest pool of active users while Origin is seriously far behind. And not to mention that Origin is lacking in a selection of games. And both Steam and Origin use a considerable amount of RAM, Origin seems a little greedy in this category. And of course both platforms are heavy supporters of their own games. Valve's flagship line includes Left 4 Dead, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress 2, Garry's Mod, Portal, Half-Life, and more. EA's top games include Titan fall, Battlefield, Crysis, Sim-city, The Sims, and a few others.

The conclusion:
My conclusion would have to be Steam. Despite not supporting in-game streaming to the internet, it beats Origin in all the other categories. It has the largest store and fan base, it uses much less memory when running in the background, and it's the oldest which means it has the most experience. Plus Steam releases lots of updates so there are always new features being released. And that's a winner in our book.

So let us know in the comments, do you agree with our pick? Would you have picked something else? Do you think we left out a worthy competitor? Let us know in the comments. And stay tuned every Tuesday and Thursday for more Tech Wars.

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